The Evangelical Identity, Part 3

There have always been differences of opinion among evangelicals about doctrine. Churches tend to be gathered around their viewpoints on what I call "the major minors": issues of doctrine that tend to be distinctives of a particular group or church. Among those are mode of baptism, millennial issues, and spiritual gifts. These kinds of doctrinal differences had nothing to do with the essence of Christianity. Believers with different persuasions on these issues still had the fundamental doctrines of Christianity in common.

But not today.


  • We have an ongoing discussion about the nature of Scripture, including lines like "we need to be careful not to elevate the [printed] word above the [living] Word." If you have any familiarity with the liberal-fundamentalist debates of the early 1900's, that sounds like, as Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, "Deja vu all over again."
  • There is a growing acceptance of the idea that salvation can be found apart from personal faith in Christ. The subtle, deadly form of this argument is that while there is no salvation outside of Christ, a person need not embrace Christianity to be redeemed. The more "pop" expression is found in the TD Jakes quote that was floated this week.
  • N.T. Wright, whose views on justification depart from what the church has understood for centuries, recently had no problems embracing a brother scholar who denied the bodily resurrection of Christ.
  • Mark Dever wrote an excellent piece in Christianity Today about the atonement. Because he wanted to help all of evangelicalism to defend this crucial doctrine against liberal rejection? No! Because, as the lead-in line for the CT article says, "More and more evangelicals believe Christ's atoning death is merely a grotesque creation of the medieval imagination." Dever [correctly] says that "At stake is nothing less than the essence of Christianity."

I could go on. In fact, I could go on for quite awhile.

Sounds a lot different than debating over baptism or when Jesus is coming back, doesn't it?

I'm writing this in very small chunks. I'll finish up with some comments about what I think needs to be happening in light of these serious, crucial denials of the heart of the Christian faith by those who still consider themselves to not only be Christians, but evangelical Christians.